Get To Know Me

I know, I know – we all detested those ice-breaking “get to know you” games teachers forced us to play at the start of every school year. But, in an effort to connect with fellow #amwriting folks and bloggers, and because I tread the line between crippling insecurity and suppressed egoism, I thought I’d let readers know a bit more about me. So here’s some “get to know me” facts as we hover on the cusp of a new year.

 

1.) I am a proud Hufflepuff. Upon first meeting me, though, you’d probably peg me as a Slytherin.

2.) I work in the glitzy, glamorous world of retail management. I can dress a man for a formal event from head to toe in under fifteen minutes.

3.) I have a mild phobia of jewelry and other small, metallic things, like paper clips. I can touch them, but it stresses me out and I need to wash my hands approximately 16 times afterward.

4.) I collect movie posters and ticket stubs.

5.) My favorite poet is Walt Whitman, closely followed by T.S. Eliot. My favorite authors are too many to list, but J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Meg Cabot are permanently at the top.

6.) My first “writing” gig was a weekly comic I produced with two classmates in elementary school called “Barnacle Babies,” which re-imagined the characters of Spongebob Squarepants as babies. Sadly, no evidence of these comics remain.

7.) Similarly, I am a retired fanfiction author. I wrote the longest English-language fanfic for a particular anime fandom, and my stories remain online.

8.) I love all Studio Ghibli films, especially Whisper of the Heart and Howl’s Moving Castle.

9.) I used to write stories about a superhero hamster named “Hammer Hamster” and his sidekick, a gerbil named Fuzz. No evidence of this exists, which is probably for the better.

10.) I have read at least 100 books a year since 2015.

11.) I have a BA in English Literature and Film Studies from Western New England University. I graduated with the highest major-GPA in the English department. And yet, I thought the Underground Railroad was an actual train until 11th grade, so my intelligence level is debatable.

12.) I attempted to implement “Batman Shirt Tuesday” while at college, and failed.

13.) My real name is not Allie Frost, but my initials are the same.

14.) I would rather send 1000 emails than make one phone call.

15.) I once beat Final Fantasy X (on the PS2) with Wakka as my primary party member. He could kill almost anything with one hit. I don’t know how it happened, nor have I ever been able to replicate it.

16.) My favorite Pokemon is Alakazam, followed closely by Gengar.

17.) I used to be more of a Rochester girl, but now, a decade after reading both Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, I would give it to Darcy every time, hands-down.

18.) If I could belong to any Game of Thrones House, I would pick the Mormonts. Second choice is Tyrells.

19.) My travel goal is to venture to New Zealand for obvious, Hobbit-related reasons. If I happen to meet a dashing sheep farmer while there, that would be a bonus.

20.) If I could choose to be any animal, I would want to be a bear. 🐻 However, if I were suddenly transformed into the animal that resembles me the most, it would probably be a frilled dragon. 🐉 Cold-blooded and temperamental! (Kidding… maybe.)

 

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Writing Techniques: Querying

This isn’t technically a “techniques” post, because, admittedly, I have very limited experience with this. So, instead, I’m just going to babble a bit about how my process with querying has been going thus far, so it will be a bit more personal.

I never attempted to traditionally publish I’m With You, though, in hindsight, I wish I had given it a shot. My confidence was festering in the gutter after my college graduation, and hearing about the horrendous odds of landing an agent as a fledgling writer didn’t boost my spirits. So when I heard about an indie publishing contest, I submitted I’m With You on a whim. Never queried an agent or anything.

But it’s over and done, and I’m attempting to query agents for my latest MS – a YA/Fantasy currently called Otherworlder about a girl named Evie teaming up with a pair of quirky talking animals in order to save her little sister from peril in a world full of magic. It took me a long time to get to this phase… not only because I’ve been working with editors, getting feedback, revising the MS over, and over, and over, and spending a lot of time tweaking my query materials and researching potential agents. But because I am a wuss.

Well… that’s not totally accurate. But I do, like many others, suffer from anxiety, which has prevented me from taking steps in my writing career and beyond. I used to be crushed by any and all criticism, and paralyzed with fear over the idea of rejection. It took me a long time to seek help for these issues (until I started developing ritualistic behaviors, which is a bit of a red flag) but I recently did so, and I’ve gotten a lot better in regards to handing my writing and general life stuff. Getting a proper diagnosis and learning how to handle it has done wonders – I’m not saying that as a sympathy grab, it’s just the truth. I still have bad days, but I’m improving.

Thus, I’ve drawn all the deep breaths I can manage and have at last begun to send out my queries. Of the 20ish I’ve sent out so far, I have gotten a rejection. It’s no great shock, but a few months ago, that would have destroyed me. I probably would have thrown in the towel immediately, even though I know virtually every author has been rejected at least once, if not multiple times. I literally used to have confidence as thin as a delicate, porcelain elephant figurine sitting on the mantle of an eighty-year-old woman named Ethel. Fortunately, I am now in a better mental state to handle rejection rationally. It’s going to happen, and I know that – but I need to take it, absorb it, use it as inspiration to do better, and move ahead. Keep going, and keep writing. Be Winston Churchill, and never surrender!

Send me all the positive vibes you can, fellow writers! And please feel free to message me with your own querying stories and suggestions! I’m working on my next MS in the meantime, but I’ll take all the support I can get, as I really want to share all of Evie’s fantastical escapades in Otherworlder with you.

 

Favorite Words vol. 2

Ignite
Definition(s): to set afire.
To subject to fire or intense heat.
To set in motion.

Saying something was set on fire is bland and uninteresting, but to say it was “ignited” has much greater power. This is a word that truly conveys the strength and impression of what a blaze is meant to be.

Fortitude
Definition(s): Strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage.

You don’t want to say that someone has strength, when you can use fortitude instead. It digs a little deeper.

Grim
Definition(s): Fierce in disposition or action.
Stern or forbidding in action or appearance.
Ghastly, repellent, or sinister in character.

I often project a grim appearance, so I like to use this word as often as possible. It gives a gloomier, more gray, more severe impression and is more descriptive than simpler words.

Elation
Definition(s): The quality or state of being elated.
Pathological euphoria.

Why would you simply be happy, when you can be elated?

Forlorn
Definition(s): Sad and lonely because of isolation or desertion.
Being in poor condition.
Nearly hopeless.

Like grim, I like my more “depressing” adjectives to be all or nothing. Go big or go home. Don’t be sad – be forlorn!

Roll With It

On Wednesday night, November 14th, I looked at the weather forecast for my tiny pocket of PA for the following day. It said there would be a “dusting” of snow in the morning, but that it would fade to rain/sleet by the afternoon and travel would potentially be dangerous later in the day. I was scheduled to work 5AM-1PM on Thursday, so I assumed I would be fine to make the 20 minute commute home, brew some coffee, and settle down on the couch in comfy clothes to play Spyro Reignited.

Oh, how I was wrong.

Many of my fellow coworkers, scheduled the same shift, were none the wiser about the true elements outside… until a coworker left at noon, then came back to work because all the roads leading to where she lived were closed due to various accidents. I also live in that part of town, so my immediate reaction was “Well, shit.”

Though a few of my coworkers braved the icy-slick roads – many of whom had their short commute turn into a one to two hour ordeal – or had someone come to rescue them, I stayed put. My plans for the remainder of the day were thus ruined. I was starving, tired, and dreaming of caffeine. I had to buy snow boots and gloves because my own were at home. I was at work from 5AM to 5PM, helped a couple of coworkers clean the cold spawn of Satan off their cars. My little Nissan was never going to make it up the hills on my route home, so I hitched a ride with my boss who has 4-wheel drive and has to drive past my neighborhood in order to get to his home, so I wouldn’t be taking him out of the way. The broccoli-cheddar-chicken soup my mom made for dinner was the best meal I had ever eaten.

Many folks had it worse. There were several wrecks. A tractor trailer over-turned on a popular traffic route. As previously mentioned, one of my coworkers had to get hauled up a hill and got hit with a towing bill. One of my bosses had to go stay the night at a nearby hotel. My sister was stuck on the highway for 6 hours – my poor father was on the highway for 9 hours and 44 minutes, on what was meant to be an hour commute. And he still went to work at 6AM this morning, even though he slumped in the door at 11 last night.

When dealing with the fickle temperament of Mother Nature, things don’t always go according to plan. But all you can do – no matter how much you don’t want to – is roll with it. And maybe, once it’s all over, move to Hawaii. If we get another November squall like this one, I think I might just do that.

~~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Inaccurate

Historical films can be tricky for viewers – a fact I realized after watching the 1989 miniseries Cross of Fire, starring John Heard and Mel Harris, about the rape and murder of Madge Oberholtzer by D.C. Stephens, a prominent K.K.K. leader, in 1925. After viewing the film, my history teacher destroyed me by saying that the valiant lawyer in the film, Klell Henry (David Morse), did not actually exist. And thus, my frequently conflicted opinion on historical/biopic films was born.

I make sure, after viewing a historical drama or biopic, that I research the topic afterward to see what the film got wrong. Not because I want to nitpick the movie and rip it to shreds, but because I want to know the truth. At the very least, even inaccurate films can open the door to further interest and research in certain topics. But when adapting delicate subjects, films bear a lot of responsibility with what they portray… and many have fumbled that opportunity.

There is nothing worse for me, regarding historical dramas, than going on to research the true events of a film and finding out that important details have been manipulated, botched, ignored, or misrepresented, because it feels like being cheated out of what could have been an amazing story. Though, many films so deserve credit for introducing audiences to topics or events that they might not have cared about otherwise.

Of course, it is impossible to adapt any historical event into film with perfect accuracy. The very idea is ridiculous. But when you’re playing with real events, real people – especially people who have passed on, and cannot offer a voice themselves – and real world issues, there is a difference between taking creative liberties, and presenting what is essentially a revisionist history. I mean, don’t even get me started on Pocahontas. I thought that shit was true until like, eighth grade. The soundtrack is a banger, though.

Though I’ve always been a fan of Queen, I’d never purport myself as a massive, die-hard fan, so I went into Bohemian Rhapsody with a partial knowledge of both Freddie Mercury and the band’s history… but even with my limited scope, I was scratching my head at a few of the events shown in the film. For example, the first meeting between Mercury and his long-time partner Jim Hutton, and the band’s implosion due to Mercury’s intention to launch a solo career – among numerous other changes, as noted in the many scathing reviews I’ve since seen scattered about the internet.

Without spoiling anything major about the film, Bohemian Rhapsody – though buoyed by the (obviously) brilliant soundtrack and an electrifying, perhaps career-defining performance from lead actor Rami Malek – shoehorns truth and history and fudges timelines into a formulaic, painfully stereotypical portrayal of a band’s bumpy rise to triumph, and the turbulent life of its legendary front man while barely scratching at the surface of Queen’s revolutionary influence on the music industry, and Mercury’s enduring legacy as one of the most iconic voices of all time. It seeks to cover the rough edges with a glossy sheen, to be a Mercury biopic, a Queen documentary, and fictional drama all in one. As a result, the film never delves as deep as it should, especially into Mercury beyond the stage, into his personal life and personal struggles.

It’s a shame, really, that “based on true events” has been skewed by egregious insertions of “drama” that never happened in real life, often invented to make the film fit a standard “storyboard” format. You don’t need “dramatic effect” when the true story is already so compelling. You don’t need manufactured tension, fake squabbles, fictionalized personalities, and a standard “rising action, falling action, climax, resolution” plotline when you are relaying a story that is interesting enough to carry itself. Sure, the watered-down, sanitized portrayal with a near family-friendly PG-13 rating will probably garner more ticket sales, and get a few casuals more invested in the band’s music. But it makes the film, though perfectly serviceable entertainment-wise, disingenuous. It’s not the film that Mercury – or Queen – deserve. Though, again, Malek’s performance is extraordinary, and it was worth seeing the film for that alone. And it is entertaining, so I’m not trying to deter anyone from seeing it.

I’m not going to go into detail about the inaccuracies, because a ton of reviewers and articles have covered it much better than I could, so here’s ScreenRant’s comprehensive list. But beware of spoilers!

pocahontas_2.jpg
ALL LIES 

This is far from the first instance of this in cinematic history. As referenced before, Pocahontas (and the sequel, which I prefer to pretend never happened) is a big offender, because it creates a love story where there wasn’t one, and sugarcoats historical events in a disillusioning manner. Braveheart, too. And The Patriot. Now, that doesn’t mean they are bad movies, because they aren’t. I actually really love The Patriot and have seen it several times. But they are bad historical movies. And, ironically, all of them feature Mel Gibson…but that’s another story.

This phenomenon of inaccuracy in films makes it all the more baffling when films like Dunkirk and Saving Private Ryan receive widespread acclaim for their historical accuracy regarding the events of World War II… because the characters in both films didn’t exist. I suppose that gives them more freedom, when they aren’t profiling the histories and lives of actual people, but it also makes their success more compelling, and perhaps allows them to focus more on the finer details. Grave of the Fireflies is also a highly-praised film for dealing with the effects of WWII on the Japanese – if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it, though you’ll need tissues. And then, on the flip side, you get Pearl Harbor and Red Tails, which inject needless drama into real stories that were interesting enough without it.

It is, no doubt, challenging to achieve a credible level of accuracy in historical dramas, period dramas, or biopics. Not all stories fit a cinematic formula, so adapting them does require some creative liberties in order to appeal to audiences and critics alike. But it is not impossible to do so while also being respectful of those who lived through actual events being portrayed, knew of or are related to real people whose stories are being shown onscreen, and without eschewing truth in favor of drama. Audiences don’t need to be shielded from unpleasant truths, they don’t need to be shown a cookie-cutter plot, “based on a true story” should not be an afterthought, and entertainment does not need to smother historical accuracy.

Anyone else have a “Klell” moment, like I did? If so, which historical film or biopic is your biggest offender for ignoring the truth or creating a revisionist history?

 

Most American

Welcoming November with a little poem….

So an atheist
a future pastor
an aspiring writer
and a redhead
are all sitting at a table
playing Apples to Apples.

The category was ‘American.’
The future pastor would decide.
The atheist played ‘Freedom.’
The aspiring writer played, ‘The Electric Chair.’
The redhead played ‘Lucille Ball.’

All were at least somewhat American
or at least American-adjacent.

The future pastor chose ‘The Electric Chair’
as most American.

America!
Land of Freedom
of Lucille Ball
and most of all
The Electric Chair.

Tis the Season!

Once again, my dear friends and readers… it is holiday time. Ho, ho, ho, jingle bells, silent night, yada yada yada.

As you may or may not know, I am currently employed full-time in the wonderful, if occasionally soul-crushing world of retail. Also, I recently received a promotion, so this is my first holiday with this elevated level of responsibility. The pressure is on, and I’d be lying if I didn’t find it a bit daunting. Especially since, for a variety of reasons, Christmas is shaping up to be a significantly more monstrous beast this year than in years previous.

In order to keep my novel writing alive for the next few months, I am going to be posting on this blog only once a week, from November until January, just like last year. I will maintain the Friday slot, but Mondays will not resume until the holiday burst is over.

There will be a post this coming Friday, 11/2. Thank you for understanding!

 

Guilty

When the well of inspiration runs dry, there are a few methods that I utilize to get myself back on track. I have mentioned a few in previous posts, but I must admit, I have one trick that also counts as a “guilty pleasure” of sorts…

When I get stuck, and the creative juices simply won’t flow, I turn to someone named Taylor. Of course, I mean Taylor Swift. And not “Look What You Made Me Do,” T-Swift. I mean old-school, with a few 1989 selections sprinkled in thereAs someone who is more of an indie/folk/punk/rock person, who also dabbles in film/video game OSTs and Asian pop music, Taylor Swift is not someone you would expect to find on my playlist. It doesn’t jive with the image I project, let’s say.

But there’s something about her old music that gets me. “Enchanted” is probably my all-time favorite, but I’m also partial to “Red” and “Forever and Always.” The lyrics are simple, but strong and thoughtful. The melodies are catchy and assist in carrying the message of each song. They’re good songs. And for some reason, they connect with my psyche enough to give me a boost when I need inspiration.

When my standard lineup of MCR, Mumford & Sons, Bear’s Den, First Aid Kit, Aurora, etc, fails, I turn to my friend Taylor. Even though this method fits the description of a “guilty pleasure,” who am I to care? As long as it works, old-school T-Swift shall remain a beacon of motivation in my iTunes.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Allie’s Awful Guide: Public Speaking

I used to be far more terrified of public speaking than I am now, to the point where I agonized over having to give speeches or presentations in class. I even opted out of presenting speeches a couple of times because losing a few points was preferable to standing up in front of an audience. However, over the years, I developed a few coping mechanisms that have helped me adapt. Unfortunately, most of my methods are, shall we say…. unorthodox. So unorthodox, I probably wouldn’t even recommend them, unless you have exhausted all other options.

1.) Wear something distracting, but not inappropriate!: I don’t mean show up to class in a Freddy Krueger costume or a swimsuit or whatever. When I was in college, I gave a few speeches and typically selected a “focal point” for my wardrobe. This gives the audience something else to focus on. I’m not sure what measure of success this tactic had, but I applied it in hopes that people would be too distracted by my hideous wardrobe to care about what I was saying, and it gave me a level of comfort. For example, I wore a hideous sweater and pigtails (PIGTAILS!) for several of my speeches during freshman year classes. I’m talking a grandma-level sweater, complete with snowflake embroidery. It was actually super comfy and I sort of wish I still had it…

2.) If you’re nearsighted, don’t wear your glasses!: This tip applies if you struggle with the idea of standing up in front of an audience and facing dozens of expectant eyes. My nervousness about public speaking gets insanely worse when I consider having an audience. I removed my glasses all through college if I had to give a speech – faces were blurry, but I could still read any notes or gesture accurately to my visual aid. It genuinely helped me relax while delivering presentations. Farsighted folks are up the creek with this one, though.

3.) Improve your PowerPoint game!: I know, most teachers or professors will tell you that the visual aid should not be the basis of your presentation – your words should be the focus, not whatever you’re displaying onscreen. I understand that point, but wholeheartedly disagree. I am a PowerPoint wizard and owe much of my minor public speaking success to my visual aids. There are ways to make a stellar PowerPoint that defines your presentation without going heinously overboard. As long as you don’t add too much superfluity – obnoxious sounds, clashing colors, too many annoyingly long transitions – you’ll be fine. You want your audience to be engaged with it. If I see an audience enjoying my PowerPoint, I am instantly more relaxed while speaking in front of them.

4.) Don’t over-prepare!:  I have given vastly better speeches when I haven’t been poring over my note-cards for hours. In my later college years, I stopped using note-cards altogether. I would get too focused on following what I had written down word-for-word and it stressed me out beyond belief, so when I fumbled over a sentence or two, it would derail me completely. Winging it completely is ill-advised, but I have found it loads better for my fragile nerves to just ensure I know my stuff, but don’t try and cram an entire speech verbatim into my head. I also put the keywords into my PowerPoint, just in case I get a bit lost!

5.) Nab an early slot!: If you are presenting in a classroom setting, don’t put it off as long as possible. Try and get in early so you get it over worth, especially if you’re like me and will be stressing out about your speech until the moment it’s over. You’ll be far more relieved watching others squirm over giving their presentations, knowing that you are already finished, than prolonging it until the final day.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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